Tornadoes – Mitigation (Actions Before, During, After)


Tornadoes can happen at any time of the year, and at any time during the day or night. Though more common in the afternoon and evening hours, tornadoes can happen and have been reported at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning!

The following actions are some important recommendations that you can follow through each stage of a Tornado emergency:[1] [2]

Actions Before: Determine Risk, Increase Knowledge, Safeguard, Plan

General All-Hazard Actions:

  • Determine the disaster risks in your locale and the hazards that accompany them.
  • Increase your knowledge about the emergency warning signals and alert notifications used in your community.
  • Instruct family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to your house.
  • Make the necessary property preparations to reduce the damage from the hazard.
  • Acquire a backup generator in case of a prolonged power failure.
  • Check into insurance (property, health, life, and hazard type).
  • Make the necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden evacuation and power outage that shuts down local ATMs and banks.
  • Organize important documents and records and store them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Perform home inventory video taping and store tape in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Develop an Emergency Communication Plan with evacuation plan and ask an out-of-state person to serve as the "family contact".
  • Assemble a shelter-in-place Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Assemble a mobile Emergency Supplies Kit that can serve as a “grab and go” bag?
  • Get a family member trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Make the necessary preparations and arrangements for pets, seniors, and the disabled.
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans of your family member's employment building, school, day care center, or nursing home.

Hazard Specific Actions:

  • Conduct tornado drills into each season.
  • Designate an area in the home as a shelter.
  • Know the difference between a tornado watch (issued when tornadoes are possible in your area) and a warning (tornadoes have been sighted by radar).
  • Take shelter in a building with a strong foundation.
  • If shelter is not available, lie in ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the mobile home.
  • Learn danger signs - An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location even if a funnel is not visible, before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become still, and generally occur near the edge of a thunderstorm; you can often see clear skies following a tornado.

Actions During: Safety Basics, Evacuation, Shelter in Place

If at home:

  • Go to the storm cellar or lowest part of the building.
  • If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway/room without windows.
  • Go to the center of the room, staying away from the corners because they attract debris.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture and hold on to it.
  • Use arms to protect head and neck.
  • If in a mobile home, get out and find shelter.

If you are in a mobile home:

  • Evacuate the mobile home, even if it is equipped with tie-downs. Take shelter in a building with a strong foundation, or if one is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the mobile home. Tornadoes cannot change elevation quickly enough to pick someone up out of a ditch, especially a deep ditch or culvert.

If at work or school:

  • Go to the lowest level in the building, avoiding wide-span roofs (auditoriums, cafeterias).
  • Get under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold on.
  • Use arms to protect head and neck.

If outdoors:

  • Try to get inside; if that is impossible, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building; be aware of flooding potential.
  • Use arms to protect head and neck.

If in a car:

  • NEVER try to outdrive the tornado.
  • Get out of the car immediately and try to find shelter in a building.
  • If shelter is impossible, lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle.

Actions After: Get Disaster Relief, Clean-up, Salvage

  • Follow through with your Communications Plan. If all of your family members are not present, report to your family's pre-designated meeting point, unless emergency officials direct otherwise.
  • Call 9-1-1 to report injured or trapped persons. Give first aid where appropriate, but do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. Never enter any building that appears to have suffered structural damage or that poses any other hazards.
  • Continue listening to local radio or television stations and your NOAA Weather Radio for updated information.
  • Assess any damage to your home or immediate surroundings. Be aware of any potential hazards such as ruptured gas lines, structural damage to your home, downed electrical lines, and localized flooding.
  • Report fallen trees, flooded streets, or damaged public utilities to the proper authorities.
  • Leave the building if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take pictures of the damage for insurance claims.
  • Remember to help neighbors who may need assistance.



  1. American Red Cross, CDC – Emergency Preparedness and Response, FEMA – Are You Ready? Guide,, Be a Force of Nature with NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation, National Weather Service Weather Safety
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